Monday, September 25, 2006

How effective is the Emerging Church?

There is a lot of talk at the moment about the emerging church/ missional church. This is great and I am always excited to see new expressions of faith communities develop and grow.

My concern or question is this; How effective are they at reaching those who haven't encountered the gospel at all?

In Australia we are very quickly becoming a society where being part of a faith community is not even on the radar. We have a whole generation growing up which have never encountered a Christian or heard, what Christians would consider to be, basic bible stories. Church is something that grandma does with her friends.

With the new faith communities that we are developing how successful are they at reaching those people? Or are they really just successful at being a different church for those who have grown up and then out of church. Those people that have become disenfranchised with the traditional church.

In speaking with a friend recently we talked about how effective Christians could possibly be at planting culturally relevant faith communities. The church has become so far removed from the culture of the day, that if you have grown up in the church, you will struggle to have even experienced the culture of the society around you. If this is the case how are we meant to minister relevantly to that culture.

We need non Christians to be planting churches, or at the very least new Christians, those who haven't been engulfed by church for so long that they have lost touch with the community.

When a young adult becomes a new Christian we saturate them with all things church. Any time they had to continue to connect with their friends is so completely taken up with church that they loose contact, make Christian friends and are now as useless as the rest of us in impacting our culture. Yay, what another great achievement for the modern church.

In order for us to be effective in our community we need to be part of it!

This may mean that we need to drop some of the things we do at church, in order to allow ourselves the time to make the connections and develop the relationships in our community. There is no use having a well oiled machine with great kids program, worship, small groups, etc if it is only there to serve itself. If all our time is taken up maintaining the machine that we don't have time to go out and be part of the community, why maintain the machine? Our responsibility as Christians is to make disciples, if what we are doing is getting in the way of that then we need to look at what we are doing.

If we are going to plant emerging churches that impact our communities we need to do what ever it takes to be part of our communities, even if that means changing church.

Blessings

Em

3 comments:

revabi said...

Em good question and good post.

I think you are right that we manke new Christians churchy and not Christian.

I think that the emerging church is doing just what you say needs to be done to reach our culture.

Deb said...

It depends on what you mean by "emergent". If you mean "cool music and videos" then you've just made our Grandma's "Old Rugged Cross" into a technopop special.

What defines an "emergent" church for me is the process of explaining the "big picture" of Christianity with terms and relationships that un-churched and re-churched can understand. It means taking the arts and music of TODAY and using them to speak Christ to the people who like them... not Christianizing them, but pulling out THEIR viewpoint and contrasting it with Christianity. It means being "relevant" (ugh what a word.)

To get a pulse of where I believe the emerging church is successful, take a read at Relevant magazine (on line). You'll see what i mean... I hope...

God's peace...
Deb

jledmiston said...

Hi Em -
My understanding is that emerging church is hoping to equip people to follow Jesus, not out to create churchy believers.

While there are few requisites for emergent/emerging church (you don't have to be pierced, you don't have to use big screens, you don't have to baptized infants) -- the basic commonalities include: being missional (reaching out; going out to where the people are rather than expecting people to come find you); being incarnational (exhibiting Christ in the world, working to bring the Kingdom to earth -- rather than trying to "get into heaven") and bringing ancient 1st century spiritual practices into our 21st century culture.

You ask a good question: are former non-believers coming to believe in/follow Christ? My hunch is that many who have left the traditional "churchy" church might connect with an emerging congregation. But I know, in all fairness, that one of the criticisms (Mark Driscoll) is that no "new Christians" are connecting.

Nevertheless, I see great potential/hope in this movement.